There is a growing tendency in this country to see things in black and white terms. When our president tells the world they’re either "for us or against us," it smacks of simplistic, all-or-nothing thinking. But, when that same president-or any other fifty- something American male-is taken to task for not fighting in Viet Nam, such criticism fails to consider the enormity of such a decision, or the historical context of the Viet Nam era. So what does this have to do with cable? When I read that Leo Hindery was leaving YES, I began to reflect on Leo’s career and wondered how he might be remembered. It is easy now for operators to paint Leo as a bad guy, a price-gouging programmer talking out of both sides of his mouth. But I recall during cable’s "Summer of Love," Leo was considered the voice of reason, a speaker of truth, and the industry’s conscience. My sense is, from what I know and from what others have told me, Leo is all these things, and more. Like most people, Leo isn’t just black or white; he has many sides. (In fact, I’m not so sure he doesn’t have more sides than anyone I know.) Leo is a true paradox; a complex man trying to reconcile the many impulses churning inside him. Think about the Leo Hindery we knew: this was a man who amassed a personal fortune, yet became this industry’s strongest advocate for gender and racial equality. He was an investment banker, where caution is god, who regularly defied death in a race car. He was by all accounts heterosexual, yet took a back seat to no one in fighting for the rights of AIDS victims. He was one of the big guys, yet took the side of the little guy-be it a maid he’d over-tip, or a gay installer he’d go to bat for. Leo keynoted conferences for minorities, gays and women, yet was the whitest of white men-a guy whose seat at the table was usually at its head. Despite the fact that rich people in this country are supposed to be Republican, this year Leo donated over half a million dollars to John Kerry. He never forgot your name, but conveniently forgot key aspects of his past. Like the New York Times profile on him a few years ago implied, Leo seemed to be a "self-made" man in more ways than one. And finally, despite being the best salesman in the industry, Leo ultimately proved unable to sell the Yankees in a post 9/11 New York. Sure he could be maddening. I remember after his fallout with Michael Armstrong, he came to CTAM and told a bewildered audience they were in the wrong business. I also remember Leo testifying to Congress about vertical integration and reciting percentages that made me cringe. He seemed to be plucking numbers out of the air. I’m not so sure there wasn’t a lot of little boy in Leo; one who just wanted to be loved. He seemed to relish the spotlight and really knew how to work reporters. Leo understood their power, and always seemed to want nice things written about him. I likewise knew he had great affection for Tom Kerver, and I’m sure was devastated to hear of the cable reporter’s death last week. What I’m afraid is that Leo burned too many bridges, which closed a lot of doors for him. That makes me sad. Leo brought great things to this industry, and we owe him a debt of thanks. I also believe that, while he may have tweaked some noses and bloodied others, his good far outweighed his bad. Before Leo leaves and pursues new interests (Commerce Secretary, perhaps?), I hope he picks up the phone and make a few calls. There are people in this industry would love the opportunity to make peace and wish him the best. After all, Symonds says, we’re cable; an industry built on the subtle shades of gray in an otherwise black and white world. Curtis Symonds can be reached at curtissymonds@yahoo.com.

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